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Northern Tanzania Family Safari


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Trip Report: Northern Tanzania Family Adventure

Date: February 10-21, 2010

Booking Agent: Africa Travel Resource (ATR)

Ground Operator: Asilia

Guide: Robert

Vehicle: Land Cruiser

Camps: Oliver’s Camp (Tarangire - 2 nights), Crater Forest Tented Camp (Oldeani/Karatu - 1 night), Olakira Ndutu (Serengeti - 3 nights)

Lodges: Moivaro(Arusha -1 night), Gibb’s Farm (Karatu -2 nights)


Upon arrival in Kilimanjaro Airport at 8:30PM we got our visas, our luggage and met out guide Robert, who drove us by Land Cruiser to Moivaro Lodge just outside of Arusha. The rooms were large, clean and had flowers sprinkled on the beds. The room décor was otherwise dated and rustic. We toured the beautiful grounds in the morning and enjoyed the flowers, birds and butterflies. Their breakfast and the box lunch were both average.


Moivaro Cottage


Our safari really began at 11:00am when we started our journey to Tarangire National Park. We took a back “road” into the park via the Boundary Hill entrance. The Land Cruiser got stuck. We had to empty the vehicle, jack it up and put logs under the rear tires to free ourselves.


Stuck Land Cruiser


We arrived at Oliver’s around 5:00, showered and went off to watch Bush TV for sundowners. The camp seats its guests together at the dinner table. We had a great meal talking with the only other guests, a couple of ladies originally from Uganda, Alex, Oliver’s walking guide, and Richard, the camp manager. The next night there were no other guests and we had the camp to ourselves and we dined with our guide. Great food and wine at the camp! Oliver’s has very nice tents, too.


Oliver's Tent


The game viewing in Tarangire focused on elephants. We saw maybe 600 on one drive. Seeing lions mate was also a highlight and there were a lot of birds. The landscape was dramatic and the baobab trees were really cool.


Sniff, Sniff


The only downside here was the number of tse tse flies. They are pure evil and tormented us during our game drives. In some places the clusters were so thick, we would crack the window just long enough to snap a couple of pictures and then close it fast. I can now understand why man has never been able to put such beautiful land to productive use. Fortunately, except for a few random tse tses we encountered on our last day in Lake Manyara National Park, our battles with these creatures ended when we left Tarangire National Park.




From Tarangire we went to Crater Forest Tented Camp southwest of Karatu near Oldeani. We picked this camp for its location near the Rift Valley Children’s Village. The tents and service were not up to the standards of the Asilia camps but the décor, views and ambiance made up that. And, they had on demand hot water! One note, if you go there, bring shampoo because they do not provide it.


Crater Forest Tented Camp


We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Rift Valley Children's Village, an orphanage run by the Portland, Maine-based Tanzanian Children’s Fund. This place is amazing. The 70+ children were very well cared for, happy and obviously loved. The buildings were clean and everything was extremely well run.


Rift Valley Children's Village


The founder and director is India Howell. She had traveled to Tanzania to hike Kilimanjaro and noticed the orphans begging on the streets of Arusha and knew that she needed to do something. First, she opened up her home to the children. Then, in 2004, the Oldeani villagers gave her seven acres on which the Children’s Village now stands.


India Howell


We visited on February 14, and gave out a Valentine’s Day card to each child. This really broke the ice. We met kids of all ages. Some suffered from terrible diseases, others had serious injuries. All of them were polite and, those old enough to talk, spoke English. My kids took away a lot from that visit. India Howell is a role model, and proved anything is possible!


Boys At the Children's Village


After our visit, we walked back to our camp escorted by a Maasai. He was the real deal. We had no common language but he was very pleasant, a little shy and self conscience. I found this combination surprising given the fact he was one seriously tough dude!


Walk back to Crater Forest Tented Camp


That night the camp was filled with French tourists. And, again, we found ourselves with no common language.


The next day we were off to Ngorongoro Crater. Due to our camps location we entered the crater at 10:30am, opting to go down the Sopa Road on the eastern side. We had some great game viewing, notable were four rhinos and an entertaining higgle of warthogs playing in the mud near the road.


Rhinos with Warthog


Muddy Warthog


We left the Crater at about 3:00pm and traveled to Olakira Ndutu camp, which would be our home for the next three nights.


Olakira was great. The food was very good and the service top notch. Everything there clicks and the staff works well together. I attributed that to the leadership of Pascal the camp manager.


Olakira Ndutu Tent


The game viewing in this area in February was amazing. We saw tens of thousands of wildebeest including one who gave birth. The calf was standing up in three minutes, walking in four and moving with mom and the migration in 5 minutes. We timed it.


Wildebeest Giving Birth




On with the migration.


For three days we checked in on a large pride of lions that lived 10 kilometers from the camp. On day one, ten cubs played while about 10 adults lazed in the shade.


Tough day.


On the second day we visited the pride in the afternoon. The cubs played in the rain and mud practicing their hunting techniques on their siblings. Later, a lioness approached the cubs and encouraged them to “play”. She proceeded to give them a good lesson in hunting technique.


Play time.


Another lioness was concealed about half a mile away lying in wait for a small dazzle of Zebra another 300 yards away. We watched for 45 minutes but, based on the wind and distance between them, our guide did not feel this was going to develop into a chase.


On the third day, we learned the pride had killed a zebra in the early morning hours. We returned to the pride in the early afternoon to watch them feast.


They earned their stripes.


Another sighting we enjoyed was a mongaggle of mongooses running across a muddy exposed lake bed. We also saw a crocodile, which was surprising because they were not known to be in this area. The bat eared fox was pretty cool, too.


There were seven in all.


They earned their name.


It rained all three days that we were in Ndutu. That did not put a damper on the activities. The only problem it caused was us running out of clean clothes. We packed lightly and each day we would give the camp our dirty clothes to wash. Unfortunately, due to the rain, they couldn’t dry them. My wife, daughter and son are all about the same size and they started trading to piece together an outfit. (“I’ll give you my last pair of socks for a t-shirt.”)


After Olakira we left for Gibb’s Farm in Karatu. In route we stopped at Oldupai Gorge. There wasn’t too much to see in the museum but it was interesting to listen to the lecture about the gorge's place in anthropological history.


(Their was a only a hole.)


Next was a short side trip to Shifting Sands. This is a black sand dune that moves about 50’ a year. It was a little breezy and fun to actually see how the sand dune moves across the plain.




We arrived at Gibb’s around 3:30pm. To our surprise we were given two houses. The Libaray House with two bedrooms and Kullander House with three bedrooms. These houses are not as spiffy as the newly renovated cottages, but they were clean, spacious, and had great views of the valley and coffee plants.

Our housekeeper took our 45 gallon Hefty bag full of wet, albeit clean, clothes, and returned them dry and folded in less than two hours. Very nice!


The dinner that night was the best we had on the trip. Sitting there in our clean khaki clothes we might as well have been in The Waldorf dressed in tuxes and gowns for how we felt. That image was broken when a lizard crossed the dinning room wall to bask in the warmth of a light on the wall above my wife. Okay, so this wasn’t the Waldorf, it was far better!


Gibb's food was good!


We gave our guide the next day off as we relaxed around the farm. We roasted coffee beans, milked cows, fed pigs, made cheese and yogurt, did some walking, watched birds, and photographed flowers and cool insects. Okay, maybe we didn’t totally relax, but we did enjoy this day very much.


A grasshopper, I presume.


On our last day we left Gibb’s and visited Lake Manyara National Park. The visit through the park was anti-climactic after Ndutu but we did watch hippos, saw some monkeys, giraffes and nice scenery. We only spent two hours in the park before leaving for some obligatory souvenir shopping.


Water babies.


We went to three places, including the Cultural Center. I didn’t like the guy who followed me everywhere obviously working on commission. Otherwise, the building for the new art gallery was amazing. It felt like a small Guggenheim, out of place but nonetheless interesting.


At 5:30pm we stopped for a takeout pizza at Pepe’s in Arusha. In five minutes they cooked a pretty good pizza! Our next stop was the airport. Our safari was now over but the tacky “Makonde” ebony elephant we carried onto the plane will remind us of the great times whenever we see it trumpeting in our family room.


The sunsets on our vacation.

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Salty Dog, welcome back. I'm really interested in your Tarangire experiences for this time of year so may ask lots of questions.


I can't seem to see any of your photos, even though I sign in. Is there something I'm not doing right?

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Hi twafffle,


That problem should be fixed now. I had an issue with the flickr permissions. Tarangire is beautiful but the tse tse flies were bad. They seemed worse the farther south in the park we went. The elephants and birds were the highlight and there were very few other visitors. Despite the tse tses, I liked Tarangire better than Lake Manyara NP.



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Wow, back already? How did the maps work out? (That reminds me: I must send out everyone elses...)

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Thanks SaltyDog, those links are working now. I've looked at a few and love the 3 zebra rear view on the curve of the river. The mongoose running is pretty speccy too. I've got plenty still to look at. Great stuff.

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Thanks, twaffle the photo credits go to my daughter for any good shots!


GW, the maps were great. Our guide and the staff at Oliver's all gathered around one morning to look at the Tarangire map. They all agreed it was a "very clever map" because it had the intermediate distances from road intersections to the next point within the park. It didn't have the camp at its relatively new location, but that is understandable.


We confirmed that exiting on the eastern side and then traveling to Oldeani via Mbulu was not realistic. It lacks a connecting road and, even if passible off road, it would have added a day of rough travel.


Need tp catch up on things but then will work on the video from the interview with India.


Thanks again.

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Salty Dog, welcome back. I'm really interested in your Tarangire experiences for this time of year so may ask lots of questions.


Me too and I'm interested in comparing Manyara and Tarangire this time of year. I read your anti-climactic comment. Way to go with the ele herds in Tarangire. I saw and photogrpahed one of those grasshoppers in South Africa, and that's what it was called--a grasshopper.


You hit the migration just right! Those wilde babies aren't helpless for long. Big lion prides, how exciting.


The picture setup is just great. What a plus for Flicker. And I like your selection of titles.


Bet Salty was happy to see you come home.

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Great report! Except for the rain it looks like you got lots of blue sky--good for photos. I love the running mongooses pic and all the eles. In June and July I've been mostly able to avoid tsetses in Tarangire. I wonder if we didn't go as far south into the park, though.


What did your kids think of the trip? And what are these maps you and GW are talking about?


Thank you so much for posting.

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In June and July I've been mostly able to avoid tsetses in Tarangire. I wonder if we didn't go as far south into the park, though.


Time of year may be a factor in these parks. My experience has been similar to yours Leely.


A lovely family as evidenced by the photos.

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SaltyDog, welcome back and thanks for the report! It’s interesting that you left Africa the same date as I. I’m still writing though … I’m envious of your wildlife sightings, especially the rhinos. You’ve got lots of lovely pictures. The running mongooses are cool, but I can’t find any topis!


BTW, I would NOT stay at Gibb’s Farm as the current owners are Thomson Safaris.

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You’ve got lots of lovely pictures. The running mongooses are cool, but I can’t find any topis!



Nyamera, I hope you realise that I've put lots of topis on my trip report, many were taken just for you, especially the one with a group of topis vying for the best spot on a crumbling termite mound. I also put on a hartebeest on a termite mound just to prove that occasionally, some other animal gets top dog position. :D

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Thanks,Salty Dog,for your enjoyable and interesting report.

From now on I'm going to be thinking "higgle" and "mongaggle" whenever I see or read about warthogs and mongoose! Great expressions.

Also enjoyed the photos.

Was obviously a great and well chosen trip for the whole family. What do you think were the highlights for Tyler and Bailey?

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What did your kids think of the trip? And what are these maps you and GW are talking about?

Leely, the maps GW and I referred to were the TANAPA Goodies Part 2




The kids loved the trip. I knew my son would but I wasn't so sure about my daughter. At home she shrieks and calls for us when there is a bug in her room. On the trip she was bitten the most and seriously big bugs were everywhere but she never complained.


I did hear one shriek followed by 5 minutes uncontrollable laughter from their tent one night. Turns Tyler put a big bug under the fold of her blanket. When Bailey pulled the blanket over her, it jumped out at her. She took it all very well. Also, I think her day job as the photographer and the letters she wrote in her tent each night to her boyfriend kept her from missing the goings on at home.


No one was bothered by the lion's feasting graphically on the zebra. It all seemed so natural and part of the balance. We did not witness that kill though, that might have been a little unsettling for her.


Boredom was never an issue. The only time fatigue showed was in the car ride back home from the airport. No one slept on the long flights and everyone was on edge.

What do you think were the highlights for Tyler and Bailey?

Caracal, for Bailey it was the photography, the natural beauty of Tanzania and seeing that everything is so interconnected and so different from how we live. It got her thinking about where water, food and heat come from. That's something many here take for granted and I found her comment interesting. As far as animals, she loved watching the lions in the pride interact over several days and under different conditions.


For Tyler it was studying the animals behavior. He liked the body language of the elephants when they wanted us to move out of an area. He thought the zebra feast was facinating. He liked watching two giraffes necking for dominance. He love it when a vervet monkey bested his sister, twice! It first stole her apple and then later got her muffin. Finally, he enjoyed just exploring Gibb's farm.


Bet Salty was happy to see you come home.

Atravelynn, Salty did miss us but she was spoiled by our neighbors and got to attend movie nights at their house with their 2 cocker spaniels.


BTW, I would NOT stay at Gibb’s Farm as the current owners are Thomson Safaris.

Nyamera, sorry no Topis and I'm guessing a Thomson's Gazelle would not be a satisfactory stand in. ;-)


Gibb's was great but it had a funky feel. At Olakira, everything clicked. At Gibb's, an intangible was missing. I felt it was becoming touristy and that there was an undercurrent that I could not put my finger on. It may have just been loose onsite management. To Gibb's credit, the rest of the family really loved the place.


I don't think the intangible factor was related to the issue Thomson has in Loliondo, but I am assuming that's why you would not stay here. I'm looking forward to your trip report.



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SaltyDog, I stayed at Gibb's Farm a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the food and friendly staff. It was a novelty that almost everything we ate and drank was grown on the farm. They went out of their way to fit in everything we wanted to do after a delayed arrival from Kenya (due to driving slowly on lousy Kenyan roads). Still got the T-shirt :huh:

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Twaffle, I’ve had a peek at the topis and that offensive hartebeest. I’ll soon read your report from start to finish.


SaltyDog, you’re assuming right about my reason to avoid Gibb’s. I’ll not exactly write a trip report, but I’ll certainly write.

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I caught that Thomson's Gazelle comment.

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Welcome back, SaltyDog and thanks for your report!


Welcome back too, Nyamera (where did you go?)!

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Patty, I went to Tanzania, but was thrown out and spent some time in Kenya as well.

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Nyamera, I'm intrigued, that sounds similar to what happened with the Jamaican Muslim cleric. Although I don't think Tanzania allowed him to even enter at the border. Not sure what you did to get thrown out but, as you know, you can't escape your fate. (A Swahili monkey tought me that.) :rolleyes:

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Alex The Lion

Welcome back, great report and images.


Kudos to your daughter.

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